Lenten Devotions Archives » Page 9 of 26 | Devotions | Goshen College

March 21, 2013

By Jessica Gotwals, a senior nursing major from Telford, Pa.
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)

Many of the people who are most important to me in my life are teachers by profession: my mother, my siblings, my cousins, my aunts and multiple friends from high school and college. Because of these relationships, I’ve seen the time that goes into lesson planning, the energy that goes into building relationships with students and the hope teachers have for the ones they teach. And since I admire the teachers in my life, it is not surprising to me that I often conceptualize God as a teacher.

There are two main things that I appreciate about today’s passage in Isaiah. First, I love the beginning verses, because they remind me that God is also a teacher, committed to challenging us and making us Christ-like. Verses 4 and 5 say that God has “opened our ears” and helps us to listen “like one being instructed.” Understanding God as a teacher is particularly helpful to me during Lent. Lent is a time to clear the excess from our lives and expose the things that block us from the Divine. There is something about being emptied that leaves us more open to the possibility of learning and gaining the new wisdom God has to offer us. What have you removed from your life this Lenten season? What wisdom have you gained in turn?

The second thing I appreciate about this passage in Isaiah is the striking assurance the author has in his faith. In verses 6-9, he is not fazed by oppression or by the opinions of others. This passage encourages us to be assured that the teachings of the Lord are good. Once we open ourselves to receive God’s teachings, we cannot ignore what we have learned, and our lives are inevitably changed. The convictions we have for our lives as people of faith may not always make us more well-liked, more wealthy or more successful by the world’s standards. However, these things are not our highest priority. God equips us with the Holy Spirit to be more like Christ. And, when we walk in the way of the Lord, we are not ashamed.

During the remainder of the Lenten season, may you be receptive to the teachings of the Divine, and may you be confident that the direction you are going is blessed. May you be made aware of the ways you fall short, but be reassured that you are learning to embody shalom. Praise to the God who teaches us patiently.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.
March 20, 2013

By Saralyn Murray, a senior American Sign Language major from Orrville, Ohio
SCRIPTURE: Luke 19:28-40 (NRSV)

In the midst of an Ohio winter, nothing expresses love like a singing valentine. As a high school student I had the privilege of traveling all over the community singing to unsuspecting recipients on that annual holiday. We would walk into different businesses, schools or homes unannounced and sing a love song. We surprised each person and it was so fun to see the reaction on their faces. Then, just as quickly as we arrived, we were gone.

“Flash mobs” are everywhere. In our Scripture today, a common Nazarene named Jesus entered the city riding on a colt, and it took the crowd by surprise. But just as quickly as the parade started, it was over.

Often life seems normal and ordinary, and suddenly love appears out of nowhere. I wonder if the bystanders were left with the warm glow of having witnessed the Messiah.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 19:28-40 (NRSV)
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
March 19, 2013

By Mara Weaver, a senior history major from Bloomington, Ill.
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (NRSV)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever.” These words, the first two verses of Psalm 118, were the last thing I saw when I went to sleep and the first thing I saw when I woke up as a child. They quietly, patiently, hung on the wall at the foot of my bed in the form of a simple cross-stitch my grandma had given me.

In addition to the pure utility of this passage — being the only Bible verse I had memorized when I was in elementary school — this verse has also been a holy reminder to me for all these years. God is good, and we should not forget that. If nothing else, we must trust that God is good.

However, as I have grown, left my home and that small wall hanging, the lens through which I see God has also grown. Now, not only do I trust that God is good, but I know why I believe that.

The Psalm says, “The stone the builders rejected
 has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this,
 and it is marvelous in our eyes.” And how marvelous it is! Not only did God choose the rejected people of Israel in the Old Testament, but again and again God used that which was scoffed at by society to do the holiest of work — Mary, a woman both young and poor, wicked rulers, lowly shepherds, children, lepers and Jesus, who was himself a homeless, wandering, outspoken, dirty radical.

In this season of Lent, in the midst of all of the pain and suffering in our world, I give thanks to the Lord that our God acts in unexpected ways. Just as Jesus was shunned by the masses yet rose again and lives as our Cornerstone, I pray that those on the margins will be received by their oppressors as the cornerstone and help us all to rise again with a new love, new life and new understanding of what it means to do God’s work and live into God’s Beloved Community.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 (NRSV)
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!
Let Israel say,
‘His steadfast love endures for ever.’
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
March 18, 2013

By Launa Rohrer, associate dean of students
THIS WEEK’S THEME: The Blessed One Comes in the Name of the Lord

During midterm break recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity alongside students and fellow college employees. Some of us cut and installed trim work, others hung doors. Another group installed counter tops and towel rods. All of us had a good day; but the construction wasn’t the best part.

The highlight of the day was when we met Mr. Jake, the grandfather of the homeowner. He came to personally thank each of us for our work. At 75, he told us how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren he had and deeply enjoyed. Construction Manager Aaron Lehman then invited us to join in prayer for Mr. Jake in anticipation of his open-heart surgery the next day. As we gathered in a circle, Mr. Jake asked if he could “hold on to” us. We laid hands on him; we prayed for the surgeons, peace of mind and ultimately for Jake’s healing. He joined us in offering a heartfelt “in Jesus’ name” to close our time together.

This week’s theme is “The Blessed One Comes in the Name of the Lord.” Who is blessed among us? As I reflected on this theme, Mr. Jake came to mind as one who showed me first-hand how to ‘come in the name of the Lord.’ Mr. Jake had much to be worried about, but he drew strength by asking for God’s presence “in Jesus name” — coming in the name of the Lord. Mr. Jake modeled gracious acceptance and gratitude; he allowed us to join him in his moment of vulnerability. We were all blessed as we reached across all our perceived differences to join as human beings needing each other.

The passages this week describe the humility Jesus modeled by assuming life as a human being and his entry into Jerusalem. The passages range in the intensity of human emotion, in victory and defeat. Regardless of where this week takes you, may you be blessed as you come in the name of the Lord: fully human, needing one another.

March 15, 2013

By Hillary Harder, a junior music and Spanish double major from Wichita, Kan.
SCRIPTURE: John 12:1-8 (NRSV)

Extravagance. This can be found everywhere in Western culture, from the billions of dollars spent on producing a blockbuster movie to the heaping platters of food served in restaurants to the amount of time and energy the average person spends in stores or on the Internet looking to purchase more stuff. I know I’m guilty of taking advantage of all of these things. We’re surrounded by consumption; everywhere we look there are more opportunities to spend money and time. And yet, too often we aren’t extravagant when it comes to giving to God.

In this story from the Gospel of John, we encounter Mary, a woman whose generosity knows no bounds when it comes to honoring Jesus, her friend and Lord, the man who raised her brother from the dead. Although the perfume Mary buys could have earned a year’s wages for a laborer, she pours it out freely over Jesus’ feet. This was outrageous in the eyes of the others in the house. How could this woman foolishly squander expensive perfume on a dirty, travel-weary pair of feet? And yet, Mary knew without a doubt that honoring the presence of Jesus with a burst of extravagance had far more integrity than putting her money into the hypocritical system Judas suggested.

What if we too could practice this kind of extravagance – one that makes no sense in the midst of cultural norms? Sure, every day we participate in a system of consumption, but we too could be like Mary. Unlike her story in the Gospel of John, the flesh-and-bone Jesus may not be standing before us: God’s presence could appear in giving money to a homeless person who asks for it, or stopping by to spontaneously visit a lonely friend, or writing a check for a non-profit that may be bigger than we think is wise. These too are examples of a different kind of extravagance, one that I believe brings us closer to God.

SCRIPTURE: John 12:1-8 (NRSV)
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
March 14, 2013

By Jeff Hochstetler, apartments manager
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)

Standing at an intersection of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, last summer, I finally saw some German-speaking colony Mennonites. Plainly dressed, many of these Mennonites had come into town to shop and gather supplies to take back to their colony. I had been living in Bolivia for a couple of weeks with an urban, Spanish-speaking Mennonite family. Most of the German-speaking Mennonites lived in rural areas. In contrast, Spanish-speaking Mennonite churches are largely urban. Rarely did the two-different Mennonite groups relate to each other.

Eager to meet some other fellow Mennonites, I was curious about them. Yet as I walked in the market toward some of the German-speakers, I found that none made eye contact with me. I tried to greet another Mennonite next to me, but was met with silence. Bolivian colony Mennonites have had good reason in the past to be wary of outsiders. Still, the cold greeting I received from many that day sharply contrasted with the warm welcome I had received from my host family.

In today’s Scripture, Paul boasts about his righteous heritage. In a twist of irony, Paul’s “boast” clearly becomes a confession – an honest assessment of owning up to past wrongs as a persecutor of the church. Moreover, he writes that past things that he once counted for status he no longer counts as privilege. While Paul acknowledges his mistakes, he does not dwell on them. Instead, Paul seems intent to focus on the transformative power of Christ to adopt us in faith.

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)
even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
March 13, 2013

By Becky Snider, a sophomore music major from Broadway, Va.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord.
Restore our energy.
Restore our motivation.
Restore our vision for the future.

At this point in the semester, I think most college students would agree that they need some restoration. You start the semester excited for new classes and new opportunities, but after two months that motivation starts to slip away. It takes more effort to get out of bed in the morning. It takes more effort to write the reflection that your professor assigned as homework. It takes more effort to go over your notes one more time before you go to bed. The carrot dangling ahead that keeps you going is spring break. It doesn’t matter whether your plans for break are to go to the beach with your friends, to go home and be with your family, or to stay on campus; the idea of no classes, no assignments and no real commitments pushes you through.

Okay, so probably the majority of you reading this aren’t college students, but everyone needs breaks. It could be that your work schedule doesn’t allow for you to take off for long stretches of time or you’re a parent and you can’t put your children’s needs on pause while you go on a vacation. But that’s when God comes into the picture. “Restore our fortunes, O Lord,” the psalmist pleads.

In those times when you’re burnt out and it seems like there’s no way to revive your desire to keep moving forward, may God restore you.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
March 12, 2013

By Paul Steury, assistant professor of sustainability and environmental education
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 43:16-21 (NRSV)

Quite often we are told to be humble. My mom always said “pride cometh before fall.” But we must take pride in who we are – body and soul!

In today’s text it says, “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” Wow! All of us – all 7 billion people were made for God and it says we need to acknowledge that. This is the same Creator that made the owls and jackals, the deserts and the rivers, the cardinals and the black squirrels. It is the Creator that made our muscles and our reflexes so we can be mobile and blink. It is God that made chlorophyll so plants can create sugar and so we can breathe. They are, what I say, amazing daily miracles.

But often we just take those simple day-to-day things that surround us for granted. We get into our routines and grinds and we sure know how to complain some days!

We need to daily exclaim, “Wow! God you are amazing to create all these things that I need – thank you soooooo much!!”

Be proud that you are an amazing miracle – all of us – every single thing! Because God reminds us in verse 21 that we are “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.”

Be proud. You are a miracle!

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 43:16-21 (NRSV)
Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honour me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
March 11, 2013

By Regina Shands Stoltzfus, assistant professor of peace, justice and conflict studies
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Christ Jesus Has Made Us His Own

Memory is embedded in the texts for this week. The prophet Isaiah, the psalmist, the apostle Paul and the Gospel writer all issue a call to remember. Remember where you have been. Remember who you are, and how you were called. Remember how you were saved. And remember that God is at work, doing a new thing – you may think your situation is the rockiest rock bottom you’ve ever experienced, but God can work with it.

We know who we are in part because of how we are named. Perhaps our name comes from a key figure in history. We might bear the name of a grandparent or other beloved family member or friend. Maybe it is simply a name our parents liked, and deemed it special enough to give to a child. However they come to us, our names signify more than just what we are called. They indicate to whom we are attached. The reminder to “remember who you are, and where you come from” is an important one. It keeps us connected to a larger reality, and guides our actions.

The Exodus event that shaped Israel as God’s own brought them out of miserable slavery and into marvelous freedom. And yet, that act of deliverance, great as it was, was not the final chapter. God is always doing new things. God is always restoring. God is always calling.

This week we are reminded that we have already been called, named and claimed as Christ’s own. As we move toward the events of Passion week and recount the journey to the Cross, let us remember our calling.

March 8, 2013

By Brook Hostetter, a senior music major from Harrisonburg, Va.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (NRSV)

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.

When I read in today’s Scripture about how the son was “still a long way off,” I imagine him in rags, perhaps with a small sack of belongings, limping down a path towards his father’s house. The father, working outside, recognizes the familiar stride of his son from a distance, and runs to greet him.

I have been in the son’s position, and I’ve seen friends in the son’s position as well. We stray away and begin to search for fulfillment in the world. After some time, we realize that home was better, so we turn and take a step back toward the Divine. Maybe the step is just a simple prayer, but God sees the desire, and therefore runs, grabs us and embraces us in love and compassion.

I’m comforted in knowing that although we may turn away at times, God waits in expectation of our return. God allows us to remember, and then welcomes us home, even though we don’t deserve it.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (NRSV)
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
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